Adrenal Fatigue is a newer diagnosis by integrative, holistic practitioners not recognized by conventional medicine. When I first heard about this, I thought this was some “made up” reason why I was always tired. After learning more about it, I have realized I was the perfect fit to the picture of a young stressed out women with adrenal fatigue. For anyone that knows me know I’m very Type A, always on the go, have a millions and one things going on for me all the time! I’ve been this way as long as I can remember; overly zealous, eager, aggressive and ready to conquer the world! Of course with that personality and mindset, over time you get worn out because your baseline is “stressed.” Actually, I will still admit, even today, I don’t know how to really relax and do nothing at all! Even my yoga and meditation is “Scheduled” into my day. All throughout residency I was always tired, fatigue, not getting enough sleep, studying, driving, moonlighting, doing this, doing that. I never really had time for myself to really relax except when I would go on vacation. Even still, that was a very stressful process because it was always preparing for the vacation and constantly on the go even while on vacation! I get it, it’s not normal! I’ve come to terms with that. However, I’m not the only one who is like this, my significant other is just like me! So what happens to over achievers like us, we are always tired, exhausted, rundown, overwhelmed, irritable, always hungry, have headaches, drinking caffeine 24/7 to stay awake and function because our body is always STRESSED. This is what adrenal fatigue is! I’m sure many of you can relate to this. Here are some tips on how to deal with this.
Firstly, you want to measure your hormone levels. Many conventional physicians won’t know what you’re talking about when you mention “Adrenal Fatigue” and brush it off, so seek out a trained integrative specialist who can help you with this. Once you have your levels, you can then tweak your lifestyle so you can normalize your stress hormones. When cortisol is always high, this contributes to weight gain, inability to lose weight, decreased immune system, and depression. It also starts affecting your other hormones including thyroid as well as insulin production causing you to crave more sweets.
Cut out the Coffee
This is important because coffee perpetuates the release of cortisol and in adrenal fatigue you want to decrease levels. The ideal goal is to cut out all caffeine. You can switch from coffee to green tea but the less stimulation your body gets, the better. This may be hard initially and you may experience withdrawals; however, you’ll be surprised how your body will thank you later on.
Yes, I said it. Exercise less! It doesn’t make sense, does it? Well you’re already stressed and tired and then run 3 miles, you should feel rejuvenated and energized after a run. In adrenal fatigue a 2 mile run can make you feel worse and more exhausted. Instead, cut the high intense cardio activity and choose things like yoga, Pilates, or even Barr. Walking is another simple substitute you can do. Instead of doing high intense cardio activity 5x/week cut it town to 2-3x. This was personally hard for me because I like to work out all the time. Now, I change it up and not run every day but add more yoga and strength training to my routine. Plus this way, I’m building more muscle and burning more fat!
Get more sleep
How many times have you heard this one? Sleep is important not only for your brain to function, but your body needs to return to a balance. Many studies have linked decreased sleep and melatonin with increased risk of Alzheimer’s, depression, and even weight gain to name a few (1,2). This makes a lot of sense, your mind needs to reset and needs to halt the stimulation and just relax. Over time, decreased sleep starts making one irritable, angry, depressed and moody. It’s not natural not to sleep! Ensure you’re getting at least 7-8 hours of restful sleep a night. (Be sure to check out “Tips to a Sleepless Night Blog” for more information. http://drbindiyamd.com/2014/07/tips-for-sleepless-night/)
Learn to Relax
The best way to do this is training your mind. Meditation is a great way to relax! Start by incorporating 5 minutes of silence a day and you can build yourself up. The more in tuned you are with your body, the more likely you’ll learn to realize what you can and cannot handle. You have to make time for yourself and time for your body to recuperate. Other things you can try incorporating is acupuncture, massage therapy, aroma therapy or engaging in a hobby or activity you enjoy. Taking frequent relaxing vacations is also a good way for your body to “reset.”
Eat more protein
You need to make sure you are eating a diet filled with protein and eating more of it frequently. Make sure you’re eating about 60 grams of protein/day. Eating every 3-4 hours is a good idea not only to keep your metabolism going but this also helps keep your cortisol levels in check.
Supplements to Incorporate:
DHEA-DHEA is a precursor to many hormones including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. When you’re in Adrenal Fatigue you’re body is not making enough DHEA which in turn affects these other hormones. A small dosage for a short amount of time monitored by a physician is a good place to start in improving your adrenal fatigue.
Vitamin C– This potent anti-oxidant helps lower cortisol levels safely at about 1500mg/day (3).
Magnesium-Magnesium is one of my favorite supplements for my patients. Studies have shown it’s great at preventing migraine headache, improves anxiety and helps with sleep, what not to love! This mineral also helps regulate and calm the adrenals down as well by decreasing the sympathetic nervous system (4). I recommend starting off taking 400 mg at night and you can always taper up or down based on your side effects. The more GI upset or diarrhea, you decrease your dose and if you can tolerate it, you can increase up to 600mg a night. I prefer a chelated or glycinated magnesium form.
Ashwaghanda – This ayurvedic herb is not only great for decreasing cortisol and improving adrenal fatigue, but also helps lower blood pressure naturally. A 2010 published study in India in the Journal of American Neutraceuticals showed that Ashwaghanda safely improved DHEA& testosterone levels (5). You can take 500 mg daily and safely increase up to 2x/day.
Try some of these tips and be sure to let me know your energy levels taper out!
1.P. Dykierek,G. Stadtmüller.P. Schramma,M. Bahro,D. van Calker,D.F. Braus,P. Steigleider,H. Löw,F. Hohagen,W.F. Gattaz, M. Berger, D. Riemann. The value of REM sleep parameters in differentiating Alzheimer’s disease from old-age depression and normal aging* Journal of Psychiatric Research. Volume 32, Issue 1, Pages 1–9, January–February, 1998
2.Sanjay R. Patel , Atul Malhotra ,David P. White ,Daniel J. Gottlieb & Frank B. Hu Association between Reduced Sleep and Weight Gain in Women. Am. J. Epidemiol. (15 November 2006) 164 (10): 947-954.doi: 10.1093/aje/kwj280First published online: August 16, 2006
3.Bennington, Vanessa. “The Top 3 Supplements for Improved Adrenal Health.” Breaking Muscle. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://breakingmuscle.com/health-medicine/the-top-3-supplements-for-improved-adrenal-health>.
4 Shimosawa T1, Takano K, Ando K, Fujita T.Magnesium inhibits norepinephrine release by blocking N-type calcium channels at peripheral sympathetic nerve endings. Hypertension. 2004 Dec;44(6):897-902. Epub 2004 Oct 11.
5. Ahmad MK, et al. Fertil Steril.2010. 94(3):989-996; Mahdi AA, et al. eCam. 2009.8; Auddy B, et al. J Am Nutraceutical Assoc. 2008.11(1):50-56).